By the time identical twins Viraj and Varun Boodhun started their Bachelor of Nursing degree at EIT, they had gained a medical degree overseas and were well on their way to becoming medical specialists. The brothers had won a three-year scholarship covering their postgraduate training costs and had already published a few research articles. But life had different plans.
Of Indian descent, Viraj and Varun grew up in Mauritius. After completing high school in 2009, they moved to China to study at the Wenzhou Medical University. Viraj explains their reasons for the big move: “The medical sector in China is far more advanced and students get a lot more practice while still at university. In Mauritius patients are quite reluctant to deal with medical students and placements are scarce.”
Although the study language was English, they learned Chinese, which added to their knowledge of French, Hindi, and Mauritian Creole, their mother tongue. “It was a great experience,” they say. Five years of degree study were followed by a one-year internship and 18 months of specialist training, with Viraj delving into orthopaedics, and Varun into neurology.
Unfortunately, over the years of their study, the job market in Mauritius had changed dramatically. “The retirement age had been put up from 60 to 65 years. In addition, a lot of young doctors were hunting for jobs. All of a sudden, the medical field was completely saturated,” explains Viraj. Not having much hope of starting a medical career in their homeland, they decided to interrupt their postgraduate training in China and hatch a plan B. A friend who studies at EIT, recommended the institute and so the brothers landed in New Zealand – once again as international students.
Knowing that their medical degree wouldn’t be recognised in New Zealand, Viraj and Varun had to rethink their career plans. First, they brushed up on their English, and then they completed a high-level English language course which enabled them to enrol in the Bachelor of Nursing.
Viraj and Varun bring a lot of medical know-how, yet nursing is a different profession altogether. “We love the fact that cultural aspects, cultural diversity and appropriate communication techniques are a big part of the nursing curriculum. This is something that our previous education didn’t cover much.”
Both brothers work part-time in aged-residential care which adds another valuable aspect to their education. “During lockdown, while many of our friends were afraid to go to work, our medical background helped us cope with the difficult situation,” says Viraj.
Having one another to go through tough times side by side, has always been very helpful, they say. “Viraj is talkative, while I’m quite reserved, he plays Badminton, I’m more into football, but apart from that we share pretty much the same interests,” says Varun.
Since arriving in New Zealand in September last year, they haven’t found time to travel. But a road trip is on the cards. And then? “As qualified registered nurses we hope to find a good job, here in New Zealand or somewhere else in the world.”